Ever wonder if the Universe/Fate/deity of your choice likes to mess with your life just to see how you react? That’s a bit how I’m feeling right now. Here I am, still on a high from last year, full of so many ideas that I need a file to keep track of them, and ready to make this writing thing more than a hobby, when WHAM!, I’m a hit by some sort of repetitive stress injury. To be honest, I’ve been having problems with my hands off and on for several months, but this time it seems to be sticking around. So I’ve had to be careful about what I do and how I do it, and rather than give up writing I’ve had to get creative.
For one thing, I’ve been trying to write more in longhand rather than type which, for some reason, doesn’t bother me as much as keyboarding lately. This isn’t as easy as it seems. Although I always carry around a notebook to capture dialog, sentences, or phrases, as inspiration strikes, I haven’t written more than a paragraph by hand in at least 20 years. It’s tough to get back in the habit, not to mention slow. I am much faster when typing than I am writing by hand. It’s also not as easy to revise or write in a haphazard fashion, as I tend to do. I suppose it could be worse—I could be writing two hundred years ago with ink and quill.
The other thing I’ve been trying is voice recognition software. I am testing out Microsoft’s speech recognition tool that comes free with Windows right now with mixed results. In fact, this blog post was dictated entirely using speech recognition. There are a couple of challenges involved and not all of them are the tool’s fault. For me, speaking out loud has always been difficult. I have a disconnect between my mouth and my brain, and as soon as I start to speak I lose the rest of the sentence that was forming in my head. I am not a verbal storyteller, so just speaking aloud takes getting used to. So far, this tool isn’t bad for short things like emails and this post, but I have to work up to longer things like a novel. It really slows things down to have to carefully pronounce each word, not to mention getting into correction battles when the tool doesn’t understand you. I found two main technical issues that frustrate me: the first is the size of the voice buffer. It’s too small. It can handle short sentences but if you start to rattle on, it may truncate some of what you have said when you go to insert it. The second thing is the options that the tool presents if you happen to use unusual words or names. In my latest short story, both my characters have odd names—Emmett and Sky (which gets written as “Emmitt and sky”). It quickly becomes frustrating trying to correct the tool all the time. Sometimes I just give up, and for the purposes of dictation call them Dave and Joe, and then do a find and replace later. Overall, for a free tool it’s not bad. As I continue to use it, I learn new things and can hopefully “train” it a bit more. I understand there are better voice recognition tools out there for purchase, but I will hold off for now and see how this goes.
I suppose that anything I do will be slower than the way I was writing before; it’s about retraining myself, and as I continue to do these things, it will hopefully become easier and faster. The Universe won’t get me down this time!